And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” (ESV Matt 21:9-10)
What can a Biblical story from thousands of years ago mean to me today, other than signaling the beginning of a sacred season in my faith base? But that season has been interrupted in the sense of routine. I just spent my first Palm Sunday in over forty years unable to be with other believers, wave palm branches, sing songs of praise and gratitude. I, like millions of others, was denied opportunity to delight in the community of those who, like me, believe Jesus came to save mankind from spiritual destruction and separation from God.
But this past Sunday, I stopped to reflect upon the first ever Palm Sunday. I asked myself (not for the first time) what that may have looked and felt like. As a follower of Christ, I like to think only of those who were there to offer “all glory, laud and honor” to Him. But there were many in the crowd who felt anything but praise and gratitude for this man on the back of a donkey. Celebrating His entry into the Holy City was not on their ancient bucket lists.
There were those who insisted He was a con artist trying to attract a following and undermine or even overthrow the religious ideas of the day. Some in the government and law enforcement were, no doubt, tired of dealing with the disruptions He caused wherever He went. Perhaps those falling into one or both of these groups wanted Him to just go away. I imagine others were curious and wanted to know what was going on and what this stranger had to offer or teach them. Perhaps the inquisitive ones were confused by people waving greenery and declaring this man the son of a king.
But His followers believed He was exactly who He said He was, and He’d come to offer a new way of living, thinking and worshiping God. They also hoped for a deliverance from the oppressive political system of their day. They hoped for a new King of Israel. I’m not sure if they were struck by the irony that this king arrived on the back of an animal signifying peace and not straddling a powerful beast symbolizing dominance, as many kings of the day rode.
Regardless of what or how they saw Jesus, the question was raised and remains today, to believers and nonbelievers, “Who is this guy?”
As I pondered this scripture in my quiet time with God, I realized he does not ask me to figure out how others of that day, or this, define Jesus. God called me to look beyond the church celebrations, rituals and finery to see the Jesus heading to the cross. Then He asked me to examine who Jesus is to me, not to my neighbor or to my Christian siblings. He asked me to find a deep meaning that does not rely upon opinions of others, political approval or my quest to be in step with whatever crowd I am part of at any given moment.
God asked me if Jesus is indeed the one I want to praise and worship, even in the face of difficulties and loss. Is He a bother some days when I don’t feel like loving others or finding a way to be generous to those who think in ways foreign to my mindset? Can I still say He is my “all” when He disrupts my life, my plans, my agendas? Have I relegated Jesus to the gumball-machine God who responds when I put in my required time and effort in order to get my way? Am I willing to allow Jesus to change my bad habits and misunderstandings in order to be more like Him? Most importantly, am I willing to ride through my life with expressions of inclusion and peace, or prance in on the steed of arrogance to impress and conform to a world treating superiority as the ultimate prize?
These were not indictments from God, but they were questions He brought before me. I know God does not expect perfection but rather willingness to listen, learn and try turning from some of the things in my mind and heart that keep me from being the woman He wants me to be. And on days when it is beyond my humanity to be willing, He asks me to be willing to be made willing.
Not only in this sacred season, but going forward, I pray to be reminded of who I am, and whose I am. And I pray that with each day I ask to know Him better and seek to do my best to ask the question daily, “Who is this guy – to me?”
Copyright April 2020 Laura L. Padgett
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